Lizeroux pulls off miraculous slalom win in Adelboden
World Cup ski racing doesn't get much better than this. France's Julien Lizeroux put on one tremendous show today in Adelboden, Switzerland overcoming an enormous deficit of 1.15 seconds in the second run to capture his first win of the season.
"It's maybe one of my greatest (races) - I was waiting for eleven racers to see if I would win," said Lizeroux about the victory. "My legs were shaking. I didn't know what to feel, smiling, crying. It was a lot of emotions today. Alpine skiing can bring that."
The World Championship silver medalist from last season in Val d'Isère made an early mistake on a steep, difficult and icy Chuenisbärgli piste during the morning run. His time of 56.35 only placed him twelfth, more than a second behind first run leader, Mattias Hargin of Sweden.
Lizeroux looked on nervously down bottom in the lead, after clocking a nearly flawless second run time of 55.53. His run would ultimately be 0.92 seconds faster than the nearest competitors in the afternoon session, Marcel Hirscher of Austria and Marc Gini of Switzerland, both of whom posted 56.45.
One after another, the world's best failed to dethrone the Frenchman.
The usually steady Manfred Moelgg of Italy couldn't find his way to the bottom.
Austria's Benjamin Raich, third after the first run made a critical mistake near the top, dropping him to fourth 0.82 behind Lizeroux. Next to falter was Reinfried Herbst, second after run one, as he straddled a gate entering the final pitch.
Finally, it was up to first run leader, Hargin of Sweden, seeking to become the first Swede to win in Adelboden since the legendary Ingemar Stenmark did so in 1984.
Hargin lost time to Lizeroux as he seemed to fight his way down the slope. The young Swede ultimately finished 1.11 seconds behind, giving Lizeroux the triumph, dropping to a more than respectable fifth place.
"I didn't know if I was going to be on the podium," said Lizeroux. "All the racers came to me saying maybe you are going to win, maybe you are going to win. That's a win right now and I'm definitely so happy."
The 30-year-old Frenchman from the Albertville region also finished third in this past Wednesday's slalom in Zagreb, Croatia, making it two podiums in only five days.
"I'm having a lot of fun ski racing especially in such difficult conditions like today," he said. "It was icy and visability was not very good and I just made it."
Austria's Marcel Hirscher, sixth after the first run, climbed up to grab second, his best-ever World Cup slalom result.
"It was amazing today because at the last three slalom races, I didn't make it to the finish," said the 20-year-old Austrian. "Everybody was saying to me that Marcel isn't good in the slalom at the moment, but I knew I was fast in slalom. I've pushed it 100 percent in every race (thus making mistakes) and today I tried to ski at 90 percent and I think this was part of the success."
Croatian veteran Ivica Kostelic was extremely impressive on Sunday, finishing third, particularly considering that he just underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in mid-December after feeling pain at races in Val d'Isère, France.
"When I had surgery, my main goal was to just get through the races in January and prepare myself for Vancouver," said the 30-year-old Kostelic. "The knee was holding really well yesterday and today I just went 100 percent. The most important thing is not the result - the question is always the knee and it was good. That is the most important thing."
With today's victory, Lizeroux jumped to within four points of World Cup slalom leader Manfred Pranger, with 241 points to Pranger's 245. The Austrian was one of 27 competitors who failed to complete the first run. World Cup slalom resumes next Sunday with the fifth race of the season in Wengen, Switzerland.
Despite poor weather and cancellation of Saturday's giant slalom, a record crowd of 40,500 attended the two days of racing in Adelboden.
By Brian Pinelli
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